African Clawed Frog, Xenopus laevis, tadpoles have the well-known ability to fully regenerate their tails when damaged, however, there's a two day period during development that they lose this ability. Using this knowledge to their advantage, a team of researchers used a method known as single-cell genomics to map out the cells in the tadpoles' bodies that were activated during the regenerative process, during both the periods when the tail would regenerate and when the regenerative ability was nonfunctional.
Single-cell genomics allows genetic researchers to track the individual genes and tell which have been activated throughout the body of an organism in individual cells. This allows for more exact identification of specific cell types and cellular lineages as the organism's cells are mapped out at multiple levels of development.
Through using the technique, the team was able to discover a new type of epidermal cells, meaning skin cells, that control the regeneration process. The researchers called these cells Regeneration-Organizing Cells, ROCs for short. The cells help direct the rebuilding of the anatomical structures of the tail to the right specifications and are an essential part of the regenerative process. The team hopes that further examination of this mechanism may provide novel paths of research for similar effects in mammals in the future.
Read more: http://rsci.nl/da4
Image: Ribbiting Science